The year is 1999 and a meteor known as "Darc Seed" has turned the entire country into brain-hungry zombies. And that's not all, this menacing Darc Seed guy has brought the Statue of Liberty to life and she's going on a massive rampage. And the only person that can save the country from this crazy meteor attack? None other than Namakubi, the bodiless head of a great samurai warrior. Yeah, it's going to be that kind of review.
I doubt I need to tell you that Zombie Nation is one messed-up action game. I would say that even if the game didn't star a giant flying decapitated head doing battle with the Statue of Liberty. The truth is, the game's extreme weirdness plays to its strengths, which is why two decades later I'm so thinking about this crazy game from KaZe.
At its core Zombie Nation is very much a traditional horizontal 2D shooter. You move your flying head around the screen shooting down bad guys and destroying buildings that get in your way. That's right, you get to take out entire buildings as you fight through the levels. So, in a way, the game feels like a strange cross between Gradius and Rampage. We may never find out, but I would bet you money that this samurai master could kick the butt of any of those oversized animals in Rampage.
The first thing I noticed when sitting down with Zombie Nation is how fast it is, especially when compared to the other 2D shooters on the NES. Your character flies around the moving stages as the speed of light, shooting from one side to the other collecting items and shooting enemies. In fact, the character is so fast that I found him hard to control in much of the game. Worse yet, there are a few levels where navigating your character is of vital importance. While the concept is good, the game really lost me when I actually started to play it.
Each of the game's levels take place in different parts of the United States. You start the game in a zombie-filled New York, then fight through the undergrounds of the Midwest. Eventually you'll make it to California and beyond, all while basically doing the same thing from level to level. Thankfully each level offers enough unique content to keep you going, even if the controls are often a mess.
With the exception of some flickering, I was impressed at Zombie Nation's visuals. The main character is large and full of detail, all while the backgrounds added a lot of life to the presentation. The music isn't half bad either, which isn't something I normally say about a classic NES game.
The truth is, if it wasn't for some weird control issues, I would say that this is one of my favorite NES games. As it is, many of the good ideas found in Zombie Land are marred by the way the game feels. Thankfully you can get over that and enjoy a truly original game, but it's a shame that nobody thought to tighten up the gameplay before shipping it to stores.